NEWPORT—The Newport City Board of Education held their May meeting on Tuesday, the board’s final meeting before the end of the 2020-21 school year. At the meeting, the board decided to uphold their mask and social distancing policy through the end of the school year, as well as making masks optional for the summer session. Board member Nathaniel Vernon was absent from the meeting.
Before the meeting was called to session, the board recognized Pat Gentry, a cafeteria worker who will retire at the end of the year. Gentry has worked at Newport Grammar for 19 years.
Following Gentry’s recognition, Board Chair Jan Brooks announced that Newport Grammar School had been asked to present their COVID-19 plan for the 2020-21 year at a convention in November.
“Not only are we one of the schools that had a very detailed plan, we’re one of the only schools in the entire state that went to school all year. Some schools did not even go to school, and Newport Grammar School went to school every day… we did take some of our weather days right before spring break, but other than that Newport Grammar School has been in session,” said Brooks.
To begin the workshop, Mischelle Black presented the school’s COVID report, which involved only one student who is currently quarantining but has not tested positive. Board member Mickey Powers inquired as to the number of teachers who have received the vaccine, to which Black responded that data was not on hand, but that most of the teachers who had scheduled vaccine appointments through the school had reported back to her that they had received the vaccine.
At this time, Brooks mentioned the agenda item regarding COVID procedures for the rest of the year and into the summer, acknowledging that the school’s current procedures have gotten NGS to where it is right now.
Board member Powers stated that optional masking over the summer with social distancing maintained would be a good trial period to give more information for next fall. After discussion, the board elected to vote to uphold current standards through the end of the school year with optional masking over the summer session.
Christina Leas’ Cafeteria Report followed this discussion. Leas reported that 8,770 meals had been served throughout April. Leas also announced that she had accepted bids for a new Combi Oven for the kitchen, to be voted upon later in the meeting.
Principal Michael Short presented his report to the board, sharing many upcoming events over the next two weeks.
Kindergarten Graduations are scheduled for this Thursday, May 20 and Friday, May 21 at 6 p.m. in the gymnasium. The event is in-person with limited seating. Ten individuals from each family will be allowed to attend. The event will be live streamed.
Tuesday, May 25 is 8th Grade night at 6 p.m. in the gymnasium. The event will be live streamed.
Wednesday, May 26 and Thursday, May 27 will be Honors programs for grades 3-7.
Assistant Principal Dustin Morrow was absent, but Brooks delivered his report, the main point of which was that NGS has enough cleaning supplies and PPE to make it through the summer and a few weeks into the fall.
Federal Programs Supervisor Amy Messer reported that NGS had been chosen to be a TDOE Trauma-Informed School.
Dr. Justin Norton delivered the Systems and Assessments Supervisor’s Report. According to Norton, NGS has finished its TCAP testing with only two students who did not take the TCAP and only 6 students that missed at least one section of the test.
Norton also gave an update regarding how student testing would affect teachers’ evaluations for next year. Previously, teachers had the option to defer their testing scores to the year before, but since NGS did not have scores from the year before, any teacher that chose to defer would be treated as though they had no scores. That policy was changed to allow teachers to defer to their last available year, which would be the 2018-19 year for NGS teachers.
After the workshop, the meeting was called to order.
The Board accepted resignations from Hannah Mullen, Brenda Reece, and Dori McKinney.
The board approved a bid from Kelsan for a new scrubber, another bid from Kelsan for a new shampooer, and a bid from TriMark Strategic for a new Double Electric Combi Oven.
The board approved several trips for Little Warriors over the summer and the presence of Snowmies Ice Truck at Little Warriors Camp.
The next item on the agenda was the approval to build an extra 30 minutes of instructional time into the school day, to be converted into 13 stockpiled days. Three days would be used for Professional Development, and the remaining 10 would be used as Weather/Illness/Emergency days. Board Member David Perryman expressed concern regarding compensation of staff and faculty for the extra time.
“That really punishes the teachers. They build time and don’t get paid for it most of the time… I know we need to build the days, but more often than not here at Newport Grammar School those teachers put in an extra five days of work that they don’t ever get paid for, if you look at the running average,” said Perryman.
Vice-Chair Powers responded, comparing the extra days to insurance.
“I’ve worked up here when we did this, and I’ve heard that same argument before… it’s kind of like having car insurance that you pay every month and never use. [Without it] you can get into a bind… I have seen times in my career that we were having to go later on in summer or having to take spring break time,” Powers said.
Dr. Norton pointed out that it was an all-or-nothing situation: 30 minutes was the minimum if anything were to be added to the day.
Perryman considered the possibility of compensating teachers for any days that aren’t used throughout the year.
“Being in that position you do feel it, and you know it, and you do it every day and go ‘Wow, I didn’t get anything for that.’ I don’t like not getting paid for them and I don’t like asking anybody else to do something they aren’t getting paid for. It’s going to be harder to hold onto your teachers, these little things add up. Knowing that you’ve got their backs really does matter,” said Perryman.
After discussion, Perryman pulled back.
“We can go ahead and approve that and put it into play, and if we don’t fix it this year we can definitely fix it next year. It’s definitely something that comes up amongst teachers, I guarantee you. Because when they stop to think about it, five days is a long time to be working for free,” he said.
The item ultimately passed.
The board went on to approve the decision to not offer virtual learning for the 2021-22 school year due to state rules.
The board approved several staff trips across the state for the Autism Education Conference, the TASBO Conference, and Literacy Teacher Training.